So much for blogging during the games. As I’ve never been an full time supporter before, Sean waiting until an age that most people have retired by to make his international sporting debut. I didn’t appreciate quite how full time full time support would be. Keeping his adoring fans updated on FB, Twitter and Instagram was just about as much as I could deal with on top of the general cheering, screaming, flag waving and general jumping up and down.
Nor did I quite comprehend what an absolutely amazing experience I’d have at the 2016 Invictus Games. Obviously it helped that Sean snagged two golds, a silver and a bronze, in weightlifting, rowing (one minute and four minute) and the 4 x 100m relay respectively. Watching him win the first gold was an almost indescribable mixture of emotions. Mainly pride, a tinge of sadness*, a lot of excitement and nervous urination. In the build up to that first medal I think I doubled my average daily step count dashing to and from the bathroom. It didn’t help that we’d been in place since 0800 and his winning lift didn’t take place until nearly noon. The other medal wins were great to watch too, especially the bronze but the first was particularly nerve wracking.
Fortunately we had three other powerlifting finals to support during those hours that helped to distract us a little bit. That the UK team took medals in each helped too. Watching Sarah Claricoates, an archer who only took up powerlifting on the flight over to Orlando, win a bronze was one of the highlights of the day. That victory also started to drive home what the spirit of Invictus is, and why these games are so important to the recovery of our injured veterans and servicemen.
I’m fortunate, I’ve never been seriously ill or injured but I have watched how my brother dealt with his injury and was always impressed by how he never let it define him, nor let anyone dictate to him what it meant he could and couldn’t do. Even me.
The Tough Gaffs team started with a 10k race back in 2007. I didn’t even consider he would want to run it as well he only had one leg. Totally ignoring that he’d proved to the Navy for the past seven or so years that he was fit enough to remain serving. Perhaps if I’d have been a little more thoughtful that day we wouldn’t have got into the game of brinksmanship that led us to being cold, miserable and electrocuted with monotonous regularity.**
I didn’t realise then that he was Invictus, mainly as I didn’t know the poem. Not that I do know it, I know that he has shown that spirit pretty much every day since a cannon bounced where it shouldn’t have and dropped on his left foot. Watching, supporting, meeting and making friends with some of the 500 competitors at the 2016 Games also gave me the opportunity to understand a little more what it means to be unconquerable.
It also gave me the opportunity to understand that you don’t have to be injured to have the Invictus spirit, to be unconquerable, to be the master of your own fate. For if those who have gone through some of the most traumatic of experiences, both physically and mentally can do it, what excuse do the rest of us have?
*Orlando was surprisingly smokey
** Just kidding, I wouldn’t change the past decade for anything, well except less electrocution would have been nice.